How does a steering system work?

You know that your car’s wheels turn when you turn your steering wheel. But have you ever wondered what happens between the steering wheel and the tyres to make your car change direction?

When you turn your car, your front and rear wheels are not pointing in the same direction. When a vehicle turns, the geometry of the steering linkage makes the inside wheel turn more than the outside wheel. As a result, each wheel follows a different circle.

- The inside wheel follows a circle with a smaller radius, and actually makes a tighter turn than the outside wheel. It follows a circle with a larger radius.

- The ratio of how far you turn the steering wheel to how far the wheels turn is called the steering ratio. In this example, one complete revolution (360°) of the steering wheel results in the wheels turning 18°. Therefore, the steering ratio is 360 divided by 18, or 20:1.

- A higher steering ratio means that you have to turn the steering wheel more to turn the wheels a given distance.

- Sports cars usually have smaller steering wheels and lower steering ratios than larger passenger cars. The lower ratio gives the quick steering response which is desirable in sports cars.

- Small, light cars have low steering ratios as less effort is required to turn the steering wheel.


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